There is something very reassuring about the fact that a band as bloody minded and downright weird as Animal Collective can still headline festivals such as Coachella and Manchester’s own Warehouse Project. Their previous record, Merriweather Post Pavilion, cemented their status as this generation’s most beloved oddball act, entrancing a whole new audience with its Beach Boys-on-DMT vocal harmonies and swirling production. This album finds the band reunited as a full quartet for the first time in years and was recorded in the same room, rather than via zip files and snatched IM conversations from across the globe as on MPP. The result is a far busier, more challenging listen.
In interviews, Animal Collective have denied allegations that Centipede HZ is a reaction against the adoration that MPP received, but it is difficult not to see this album as a return to their audience baiting roots. While fans of early classics such as Strawberry Jam will find little to dislike here, this record is sure to prove divisive among newcomers.
Opener ‘Moonjock’ announces the band’s latest direction with thundering thrash metal percussion before mutating into their fastest song yet. On single ‘Today’s Supernatural’ they hit their stride, hurtling on a wave of skewed melodies and lurching grooves faster than their worn-out synth pads can carry them. These two tracks set the tone for the album, establishing a frenzied tempo that rarely lets up, and a lo-fi sonic palette drenched in white noise. While MPP’s gorgeous melodies unfurled elegantly, the band’s attitude to innovation here is slapdash, with ideas tripping over each other rather than being carefully deployed.
An album this hyperactive is extremely demanding to listen to in one go, but those who can bear it should persevere. Animal Collective have once again proved themselves masters of the format, interlacing their songs with woozy commercial snippets and their trademark otherworldly synth gurgles. Most importantly, the earworms are still here. I defy anyone not to have the demented nursery rhyme of ‘Applesauce’ in their head for months. Not just an exercise in artistic opacity, this album is simply another step on Animal Collective’s abstract journey; those who are able to stomach its excesses will be rewarded with a treasure trove of sonic brilliance.